First Steam Trains to Cleveland (submitted by Ian Kirk)

Thomas Kirk was born on 30 September 1858 in Osnaburgh, parish of Dairsie, Fifeshire, Scotland. He sailed on the “Maulesden” from the Tail o’the Bank, Glasgow on 1 march 1883 and landed at white cliffs, Fraser Island (near where Kingfisher Bay resort now stands) via River Heads near Maryborough, Queensland on 12 May 1883 this was, at that time, the fastest voyage by a sailing vessel from Glasgow to Queensland.

After the death of his first wife, Marjorie in 1886, Thomas at 36 years old married Annie Marian Chappell, 31 years old from Sheffield, England. Annie had arrived in Queensland on the RSM “Jumna” on 6 April 1887. They were married in Brisbane on 17 March 1890. 

Thomas Kirk was employed as an engine driver for the Queensland Railways, and when the railway line to Cleveland was opened on 1 November, 1889, Thomas Kirk was the first engine driver. 

Thomas Kirk and fireman with their steam engine (photo courtesy Ian Kirk)

Thomas and Annie Kirk lived at 151 Shore Street, Cleveland.   This house still stands next to the old courthouse (now a restaurant). The Kirks had six children.

The Kirk’s house “Craigie Lea” next to today’s Court House restaurant c.1890

(Editor: The name “Craigie Lea” was probably derived from the popular Scottish song of the 19th century “Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie-Lea”)

Accident on the Cleveland line – a narrow escape!

‘An engine drawing the 9.15am train from Melbourne Street broke down badly near Wellington Point at about 10.40am today (writes our Cleveland correspondent under Saturday’s date). Both driving rods are broken, and the boiler is much injured by the revolving of the broken rods at a great rate. Driver Kirk and fireman Smith were uninjured. Later further inquiries and inspection show that in the breakdown of the engine on the Cleveland railway line on Saturday morning there was but a very narrow escape from a most serious accident which could scarcely have failed to be attended by loss of life. The first driving rod broke at the top of a down grade of 1 in 70, a t the bottom of which there is a wooden bridge, a waterway over 20ft deep, approached by an embankment. Down this grade for about 200 yards the train raced, as for some moments the brakes were useless, owing to the escaping steam and water rendering the rails asslippery as ice. The guard B.Finaldi, however, stuck to his brake expecting the engine and tender to be derailed every moment, as did also driver Kirk.

‘As at every revolution of the wheels the two pieces of broken shaft struck everything within their compass, at the same time propping on the sleepers, fairly lifting the engine on that side. So that it was almost certain to topple over on one side down the embankment. Just as the train was slowing, through the brakes beginning to act, the second driving rod broke, but did not do much damage on that side. The fireman Smith, received a knock on the head from a piece of wood, a portion of the cab, and was knocked back into the tender on to the coals. Kirk’s pluck in sticking to his post at the risk of his life is beyond all praise, and can quickly be realised on an inspection of the engine. By the time the relieving engine arrived from town, the broken shafts had been removed by Kirk, and the disabled engine was shunted at Wellington Point, and later in the day drawn up to Brisbane.  There were only eight or ten passengers in the train at the time of the breakdown, and they received a considerable fright.  This is the third engine that has broken down on the Cleveland line this month.

‘In the first case, after the arrival of the 5.30pm train at Cleveland, and as the engine was being shunted into the shed for the night, she sprang a leak in the firebox, and in a few moments all the water was out into the fire. In the second case, an engine broke down at Manly station on the Prince of Wales birthday holiday, and disarranged the traffic for the day.’

Cleveland railway station 1950 (Raby Bay and Ormiston are in the background)

Cleveland newspaper report-June 1910

‘Cleveland school of arts on Saturday night, the 16 June 1910, a very pleasant evening was spent, the occasion being a gathering of the residents to bid farewell to Mr. and Mrs. T. Kirk, the first railway people stationed there; Mr. Kirk having driven the first engine to Cleveland in 1889, where he had resided up to the present date. Between two and three hundred people were present to meet them and their family. During the evening Mr.L.Hugonin, speaking on behalf of the residents, and with much pride, presented Mr. Kirk with a most handsome clock, on which was inscribed: “presented to T.Kirk from the well-wishers and friends of Cleveland 16.7.10”, remarking that he hoped it would keep as good time as he (Mr. Kirk) had always done. He likened his leaving to a tree losing one of its best branches and said that although new branches might come in its place, they would never be like the old one. Mr. Hugonin brought in a touch of humour bysaying that he had always found that Mr. Kirk was a very conscientious worker, taking for example the time of political excitement – he carried both friends and foes alike to town in his train instead of dumping his foes in some lonely spot on the way -but instead of that he was glad to say there had never been one single accident on the Cleveland line during Mr. Kirk’s 21 years running. Mrs. Kirk was presented with a beautiful silver tea and coffee service with her initials engraved on, in token of the high esteem in which she had been held amongst them all. Mr. Danaber, head station master, spoke on behalf of the railway, saying thathe felt that it was with regret that the occasion had arisen to part with his fellow workman, as both in his public capacities and as a private citizen he had never met with a more valued and esteemed friend, and on resuming his seat he wished Mr. and Mrs. Kirk and family all god speed. In replying, Mr. Kirk said he could not find words to express his appreciation of the great honour done to him at this great event of his life as he had only tried to do his duty and was quite overcome at the extent of their generosity both to himself, his wife and family, and heartily thanked them all. He said that what gave him most pleasure was to see the great gathering of fellow residents to do him so great an honour on his leaving them, stating that it was not for any gain or advancement for himself that he had taken this step, but having a young family to bring forward, their interests had to be put before his own. Both he and his wife, for their parts, would prefer to have remained where they were, having a great affection for Cleveland and its people. He said he did not need the clock to remind him of the days gone by but it would always remind him of a milestone passed on the way. He then thanked them on behalf of his wife, for the valuable present given to her, and said he knew for a fact that no-one could make better tea, but even hers might be the better for coming out of agood silver pot and he hoped that one and all would visit them in their new home, “Clevedene ” at Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill, and sample it.

‘A splendid programme was carried through including several songs, a recitation good music and dancing, and refreshments served, which reflected great credit on the working committee chosen for the occasion. At the conclusion of the evening all hands were clasped and voices joined in singing the favourite song of “Auld Lang Syne”.’

Annie Kirk died in Goodna Mental Hospital on 30 July 1922 aged 58 years old. Thomas Kirk died in Brisbane on 14 September 1942, 84 years old. The old Cleveland rail line closed in 1963.

Ian Kirk, October 2006

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Reflections

The Kirk’s former home “Craigie Lea” as it appeared in 2014

‘Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie-Lea

Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie-Lea

Near thee I pass’d life’s early day,

And won my Mary’s heart in thee…’